Secondary Breast Cancer

Having Ascites drained


By K

This was a reply to a question on the forums

I've had my ascites drained 3 times now. As you say, it tends to be an ongoing problem once it has started but I have also been told that in some people if liver function improves, the ascites does sometimes resolve. It could be caused by the chemo affecting the liver (rather than the cancer progressing) but obviously could also be caused by further progression - hope that you can talk to your onc about this soon and find out whether the capecitebine is working for you or not. And obviously if it isn't, hope you can be moved onto something else that might work - and hopefully "reset the clock" as it were.

In terms of the procedure, it's done in radiology. You have an ultrasound first so that they can judge where best to put the drain. Then they give you local anaesthetic before inserting a wire along which they then feed the drain (again guided by the ultrasound). I wouldn't say it is terribly comfortable but nor is it particularly painful. It probably takes about 30 mins (though it's varied each time I've had it done). They then attach a bag to the drain and (2/3 times for me) a tap as well so they can control the flow. They need to monitor how much fluid is being drained off and don't like too much over a short time - so I've for instance had to have a 30min break with the tap turned off after they drained the 1st 2 litres. They also do standard observations fairly frequently to begin with to check it's not putting too much strain on you. I've had no problem with that side of it though and from what I can tell, it's just a matter of being cautious rather than there being big risks.

How long they leave the drain in place depends on how much fluid there is and also how quickly it drains out. I've had 4.5l, 5l and most recently 3.5l drained off. The first time they kept me in overnight so it was in place for nearly 24hours, but the last 2 times it has been nearer 10 - 12 hours. I was also recommended to go for a bit of a walk around when the flow started slowing as sometimes that can "jiggle" things around a bit and that certainly seemed to work for me.

The day after I usually feel quite tired but not too bad otherwise- and certainly it has always helped with mobility and that feeling in the ribs etc.